Drones have become the ultimate road trip investment because… who doesn’t love a weekend filled with capturing scenic roads, sweeping mountain views and picturesque pools from above the canopy of the trees?
However, knowing where to fly them and what regulations apply can take time and effort. Let’s dive into some of my favourite flight spots and accommodation locations in West MacDonnell National Park before getting to the critical information you need before taking off in the NT.
West MacDonnell Ranges was one of my favourite locations in the NT during our outback trip, as there is plenty of beauty in its landscape and scenery regardless of where you go or if it is captured with a drone or camera.
Please note, You will also need to purchase a park visitor pass for the West MacDonnell Ranges at Park pass | NT.GOV.AU or at the NT visitor centre in Alice Springs.
For more information on accessing West MacDonnell National Park see this blog post here.
White soft sand beaches that slope into the water and towering red cliff faces made this not only a beautiful location to send the drone up but also the ultimate picnic spot for lunch by Ormiston Gorge Pool.
Read this blog post about swimming in West MacDonnell National Park.
It has a large car park with some shady spots; however, I would advise getting here early before the crowds arrive as well as capturing the gorge in its best lighting as the midday – afternoon sun casts long shadows and heavy contrast, making it a nightmare to capture without overexposure.
If you are shooting mid-day, I recommend utilising ND filters for your drone to assist during peak sun hours to help balance the exposure. Either way, I still loved capturing this oasis on the drone and my canon.
One of the best swimming spots in the West MacDonnell Ranges. It’s a bit of a further walk than the other swimming spots but so worth it!
A pool float is recommended for this one, and the best light of the day is mid-morning – mid-day when the sun beams through the gorge and illuminates the beautiful red hue of the rock faces.
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Scenic Road Spot (between Standley Chasm and Alice Springs)This isn’t a specific location, but en route back to Alice Springs, we pull over to have a moment to capture the beauty of the mountain ranges and surrounds, and WOW!! Truly breathtaking and by far the most scenic flight of the trip, with lush green terrain, endless mountain ranges and peaks of red rock.
Accommodation Under the Stars:
What made our trip so memorable was not just being able to spend the day in the Ranges but also the evening! The National Park has well-equipped campsites at Ormiston Gorge, Redbank Gorge and Standley Chasm.
They are perfect for an overnight stay, and each has various facilities. You can view and book them at Northern Territory – Northern Territory Parks Booking System.
More accommodation options can be found in the map below!
Flight Regulations and Permits:
First things first, whether you’re flying commercially or recreationally, it is always important to check each state or country’s regulations before our trip and if any permits are required, especially for national parks, due to wildlife, other air services and cultural considerations.
Recreational activities need an operation of aircraft permit in the Northern Territory. This permit will allow you to fly in approved parks for 12 months. For more information and permit application, you can visit this webpage. CASA regulation still applies in accordance with this permit.
Remember to pack your sense of adventure, respect for nature, and an open mind as you set out to discover the West MacDonnell Ranges. Leave only footprints behind as you traverse the trails and immerse yourself in the pristine wilderness of the National Park! We would love your feedback – we encourage you to share your experiences, questions, and suggestions in the comments below.